Pierre Jackson has grown accustomed to winning. So it made sense that when it came time to play Division I basketball, he wasn’t about to join some ragtag outfit or be part of a rebuilding project.
Jackson, a former Desert Pines High standout, chose to continue his career at Baylor. It appears to have been the right move as the 5-foot-10-inch junior point guard is averaging 11 points off the bench for the No. 6 Bears, who beat Saint Mary’s (Calif.) 72-59 on Thursday in the Las Vegas Classic at Orleans Arena.
“I’m in a great place,” Jackson said. “We’re really deep, and there’s so much talent here. Everything is positive, and that’s what I was looking for — a place where I could win and have fun playing.”
Jackson led College of Southern Idaho to the National Junior College Athletic Association championship in the spring and earned NJCAA national player of the year honors. After being under-recruited in high school, he suddenly became a hot commodity.
Baylor coach Scott Drew was looking for a high-energy player who could fit in quickly with the tall, athletic group he had coming back this season.
“He’s been great for us,” Drew said. “He’s a charismatic kid, and he helps us play at a faster pace. He’s like having a fifth gear on a car instead of a four-speed.”
Jackson said he wasn’t worried about continuing to be away from home. He figured if he could live in Twin Falls, Idaho, for two years, he could handle Waco, Texas, where Baylor is located.
“It’s no problem,” he said. “It’s a great school. I’m getting a great education, and I’ve got great coaches and teammates.”
His homecoming Thursday could have been better. In 26 minutes, Jackson made 3 of 9 shots and finished with six points, four assists and four turnovers. He also came up short on an attempt at a highlight-reel slam dunk that caught the front of the rim and caromed off wildly.
“It was great to be home,” Jackson said. “My grandmother got to see me play for the first time since my senior year (at Desert Pines). I thought when I hit my first shot I was going to have a big night. But sometimes, things don’t work out the way you hope. But the important thing is we won the game.”
Baylor (11-0) was too deep and athletic for Saint Mary’s. The Bears increased their 36-34 halftime lead to 61-46 with about eight minutes remaining, as Quincy Miller, Perry Jones III and Quincy Acy took over.
Miller scored 15 points, Jones had 14 and Acy had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Bears, who will play West Virginia at 6 p.m. today on the final day of the event.
“We did a better job of taking care of the ball in the second half,” Drew said. “We also were able to get one or two spurts, and that gave us some room.”
The Gaels (9-2) struggled with their outside shooting most of the night. Matt Dellavedova, Saint Mary’s outstanding senior guard, had a particularly ragged game, making 1 of 9 3-point attempts and finishing with nine points.
■ West Virginia 70, Missouri State 68 (OT) — Bob Huggins became the 20th coach to win 700 games as the Mountaineers (9-2) rallied from a 10-point second-half deficit to force overtime.
Aaron Brown’s third-chance putback with 1:05 remaining in OT put the Mountaineers ahead, and they survived after the Bears’ Nathan Scheer missed a wide-open layup with one second remaining that would have forced a second overtime.
Kevin Jones had 16 points and 13 rebounds for West Virginia.
Missouri State (7-4) was led by Caleb Patterson with 18 points.
■ Tennessee Tech 81, Kennesaw State 68 — The Golden Eagles (7-5) closed the first half on a 16-6 run and led by as many as 17 points in the second half.
■ Bethune Cookman 61, Texas A&M Corpus Christi 52 — Despite having only one player score in double figures, the Tigers (4-8) held the Islanders (1-9) to 24 second-half points.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.